World Baseball Classic: Puerto Rico Clinches Semifinal Spot With Four-Run First Inning

With its 6-5 victory over Team USA, Team Puerto Rico clinched a spot in the World Baseball Classic semifinals in Los Angeles. Puerto Rico joins Pool E winners Team Japan and Team Netherlands for a shot at the World Baseball Classic championship.

Unlike the first two games in Pool F play, Team Puerto Rico and Team USA provided runs early in their Friday matchup. USA starter Marcus Stroman allowed six-straight hits to start the game for Puerto Rico. The damage resulted in four first-inning runs.

In Stroman’s first start in the World Baseball Classic, he made easy work of Team Dominican Republic. He pitched 4.2 scoreless innings, allowed just three hits and struck out four batters. His start against Puerto Rico didn’t fare as well. In 4.2 innings of work, he allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo pitched 5.2 innings and allowed three runs on five hits and a walk. Lugo allowed USA to score in the top of the second inning. After a double by third baseman Nolan Arenado, first baseman Eric Hosmer singled him in and reduced Puerto Rico’s lead to three.

In the top of the fifth inning, catcher Buster Posey launched his second home run of the tournament into the left field seats. In the following inning, center fielder Adam Jones hit a line drive home run and reduced USA’s deficit to one. Jones has now homered in back-to-back games.

A crucial throwing error by Arenado on a ground ball by Angel Pagan allowed two more runs to score for Puerto Rico. They extended their lead to 6-3.

USA threatened a comeback in the top of the ninth inning. Puerto Rico’s hard-throwing closer Edwin Diaz allowed the first two batters of the inning to reach base. He then struck out Posey and Paul Goldschmidt. Shortstop Brandon Crawford stepped up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and delivered a clutch two-RBI triple.

Replays showed that Crawford was out on the tag at third. Replay isn’t available on non-home runs in the World Baseball Classic, though. Despite the controversial play, Diaz struck out second baseman Josh Harrison to end the game with a 6-5 Puerto Rico victory.

What to look forward to next?

Team Puerto Rico (2-0) and Team Venezuela (0-2) battle it out at 12:30 p.m. PST, Saturday.

Later that night, Team USA (1-1) and Team Dominican Republic (1-1) face off in a win-or-go-home matchup at 7 p.m. PST. USA sends left-handed starter Danny Duffy to the mound. Ervin Santana gets the start for the Dominican Republic. The winner advances to the semifinals in Los Angeles.

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